Rome: An Openair Museum
In Rome, historic monuments and artifacts seem to just pile up at the roadside. I never even knew where to look. I only had two days in Rome, which didn’t even come close to being enough. Still, I got a good feeling for the city and the modern Roman way of life thanks to my local guide Gabriele Stomaconi, sales representative in central Italy and Rome native.
When I arrived in Rome on Sunday afternoon, Gabriele and his wife Luigia, together with their friends Stefania and Michael, took me on a typical night out for young Romans. We went to the Spring Beer Festival Roma to try craft beers and eat street food, and then stopped at a dessert restaurant for some of the city’s best tiramisu. In general, food is very important in Italy. Good food is not a luxury but a necessity for Italians, and it’s possibly the number one topic of conversation—before, after, and during meals.
When we weren’t eating, we explored Rome. On day 1, Gabriele, Ricardo (whom you may know from this blog post), and I took a tour by Segway of the most important sights in the center of Rome, including the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, the Roman Forum, and many more. It was our first time on Segways but, even though they look a little silly, we were all very impressed by this quick way of moving around. It allowed us to see many places worth visiting in a relatively short time, which is a good thing when you’re in Rome and have only two days.
As it’s sometimes hard to imagine what the ruins remaining today looked like originally, virtual reality provided an interesting addition to the tour. At various points of interest, we could use virtual reality goggles as a time machine to ancient Rome and see it in all its splendor.
The Vatican Museums
On my second day, Gabriele and I visited Vatican City, which is the seat of the Roman-Catholic Church and an independent state within the city of Rome. The state has only about 1000 citizens who are mainly clergy (which explains that, of the 1000 citizens, only about 30 are women). However, on busy days, 20’000 to 25’000 people visit Vatican City. You can probably imagine how crowded the tiny state is most of the time.
Visiting Vatican City is not only interesting for religious Christians: like Rome, Vatican City is filled with witnesses of history and some of the most important works of art from various centuries, most famously Michelangelo’s frescoes in the Sistine Chapel. Photos are not allowed in the Sistine Chapel, but you can take a virtual tour here. Even though these frescoes are today considered some of the finest and most important works of Renaissance art, they were controversial in Michelangelo’s time, among others because they showed God’s naked rear.